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Beyond This Place, There be Dragons and a Very Angry Rabbit

February 19th, 2010

“Shut Up. And Go and Change Your Armor.”

Last night I got what may be the worst downer comment in the history of blogging:

Steve, I have been following your blog for years. I feel like I know you and I like you. You are talented and interesting writer. Over the last year or so, I have become more and more alarmed as I have watched you ricochet from one project to the next, committing more and more of your psyche and your money. I have an awful feeling I am watching a potential train wreck of self-destructive behavior.
I am a retired physician (anesthesiologist), old enough to be your father. Steve, I tell you if you were my son, I would have you in the office of the best psychiatrist around as soon as possible. Please don’t be offended, I just felt I needed to say something in the hope of preventing a potentially bad outcome.
The comment by Carl Williams has encouraged me to write this note which I should have done sooner. Please listen!

I’m sure this guy means well, but that seems a tiny bit over the top to me.

I’m eccentric. No doubt about that. But I’m not crazy. Crazy people see flaming bats flying at their heads, and they do other things, like wetting their pants and claiming to be Jesus. I only have one of those three symptoms.

I’m not nuts. I’m just a pentecostal Christian who has a lot of hobbies. That may be a mental illness, but it’s not a severe one.

I’ve been to shrinks a couple of times in my life. Even given the general ineffectiveness of psychiatrists, had I been truly insane, they might conceivably have noticed.

The first time I went to college, I got very depressed because my family was driving me up the wall, and I went to a doctor who gave me pills which didn’t do anything. Even then, I wasn’t out of my mind. I was just bummed out.

I also tried shrinks for ADD treatment, which didn’t work either. It works in short spurts, but you can’t be ADD-free all day. At least I couldn’t. I got to the point where my base Ritalin dose (the amount I was ALLOWED to take, which doesn’t include cheating before physics tests) was 60 milligrams per day. This is roughly what a team of Clydesdales would require, if they had ADD. I still couldn’t get all-day relief, so I quit.

After that, I relied on coffee. You need Ritalin to study physics. For law, coffee is more than adequate. Law is just not that hard.

Lawyers hate it when I say that. Which is why I say it. Okay, maybe I need to grow up a little. Who can resist needling lawyers? What other professionals have B brains and A+ egos?

I guess I gave people the impression I was interested in advice about whether to open a pizzeria, but I’m not. I’ll either do it or I won’t. It’s nice to get advice on the little details, but the overall issue is well within my decision-making capabilities.

I’m not as excited about it as people think I am. I’m very gung-ho about helping my church sell pizza, but I’m ambivalent about opening my own place. It would be a business, not an amusement park. Running a pizza shop is not quite the same as visiting one on your kid’s birthday. Businesses take up time, and they often fail. And sometimes the proprietors get tired of them, after the businesses succeed. Then they’re stuck.

The thing is, I have this feeling that God wants me to do this, either for the church, or for myself, or both. Doors keep opening. And people are trying to discourage me, which is often a sign that the enemy is disturbed or scared by something a person is trying to do. This can be a powerful indication that God is with you. A voice that rises up inside you and tells you to stop may be from God, but random strangers making irrational, unfounded predictions of disaster are not sent by God. The predictions have to come from somewhere, however.

Remember the twelve spies. They went into Israel and looked around, and ten came back and said the Philistines were going to mash the Hebrews like bugs. Two pointed out that God is a pretty big asset to a conquering army, but by that time, God was highly annoyed, so the Israelites wandered in the desert for a generation. Without pizza, I might add.

If you had to guess, who do you think put the pessimism in the minds of the spies? My guess: the worst loser in the history of creation. The universe’s first loser.

Then, of course, there is the story of David and Goliath. “Okay, who do we have to fight the nine-foot-tall giant?” “Well, we have a skinny guy who can’t wear armor because it falls off.” “Right. And what’s his weapon? A bow? A big spear?” “Hang on, I’ll check.” Pause. “He says he’s going to use a pebble.” “You mean like an exploding pebble? A nuclear pebble? A pebble that breaks up into laser-guided cluster bombs? Are angry angels going to pop out of the pebble and smite these creeps for us?” “No, he says he found it in the creek.” “Fantastic. Is it too late to start worshiping Dagon?”

And what about the guy who buried his talent of silver in the sand instead of investing it? As I recall, his master did not give him a prize.

Last night I was thinking about this, and it came time for me to take Maynard out for his daily bird abuse recreation. I’m not a big fan of Jentezen Franklin, but for some reason I sent a contribution to his ministry last year, and he sent me some CDs I was not really interested in hearing. Night before last, I stuck one in the DVD player, but I didn’t get around to turning it on. Last night I decided to play it while Maynard was out.

One of the first things Franklin said was, “Who has been dumping on your dream?” Man, that woke me up. He started talking about the people who discouraged Bill Gates and Martin Luther King, Jr. and other successful people. He said Dr. Seuss was rejected 43 times by publishers, only to go on and sell 210 million books. The people at Digital (remember Digital?) told Gates there was no reason for anyone to have a computer in their home.

I listened to the entire CD.

When I was a kid, my family dumped on my dreams constantly. In fact, they even dumped on my belief that I was able to accomplish ordinary things which could hardly be called dreams.

They made me feel like my gift for writing was nearly worthless; a novelty talent on a par with the ability to do card tricks. They convinced me I could not succeed in life. They told me what was wrong with me, but they never helped me improve. I even had relatives who tormented me when I talked to girls, to the point where it discouraged me from making an effort. Can you imagine that? That’s pure Eastern Kentucky. Keep your loved ones small, like stunted tomato plants, so you can control them and keep them from taking up your valuable time. Then when they end up bitter and unsuccessful, you can criticize them for that, too. This attitude is one reason Kentucky is the great success that it is today, leading the nation in toothlessness and illiteracy.

Because of the way I was raised, I was very sensitive to the importance of refraining from beating down loved ones. It seemed like every time I wanted to do anything, a voice rose up and filled me with fear and weariness, and I quit, and by my twenties, I understood how harmful misguided families could be. If you ever want to learn how to fail in spite of overwhelming ability and opportunity, move to Eastern Kentucky. We’re the best. We’ll have you failing in no time, and you’ll make your kids fail, too.

When I heard Jentezen Franklin talking about this, it all came back to me. Some of the things I’m hearing and reading now, from people I know and in comments, are no different from the garbage that was poured in my ear while I was growing up.

Funny thing; my dad thinks a pizzeria is a great idea. He has often talked about the high failure rate of restaurants, in idle conversation, so he’s not unaware of the risks. But here he is, talking about how great my pizza is and how opening a shop would be a smart move. He is literally more optimistic about it than I am.

God heals families. God heals lives. My family used to be the biggest problem I had. Now God is working on us. We’re all changing, and my dad is my best friend and a source of strength to me. As the Bible says, God can throw salt into a poisoned well and make the water sweet.

I don’t know where the pizza path will lead. I’m not worried about it. God is going to put me in the right place, now that I’ve quit insisting on running things.

And if I’m crazy, does it really matter? Remember what Dilbert’s friend Wally said when the doctors said he was nuts: “Apparently, I’m insane. But I’m one of the happy kinds!”

20 Responses to “Beyond This Place, There be Dragons and a Very Angry Rabbit”

  1. Randy Rager Says:

    I’d love to see a pizzeria chain do it right.
    Solid, honest ingredients and good recipes well executed. A menu that is neither too simple (that would be a Costco food court) nor too complex (that would be a California style pizzeria, where you can get really stupid stuff on your pie).
    Employees paid well enough to retain them for the right reasons, i.e. they love their job, so that the chain could benefit from their experience.
    And of course a rapid and sustained expansion that acquaints the entire known universe with the most sublime food ever created by the mind of man.

  2. Tziporah Says:

    Steve, you’re just fine. My concern was that you not jump into purchasing a business place until you’ve really looked it over and prayed over it. I’ve greatly enjoyed your blog since you found God and I want to encourage you on your journey.

    I’m sorry your family hurt you and themselves so deeply. I hope and pray for the healing of your family members.

    My only request for your blog is more bird stories!

  3. blindshooter Says:

    I am not a Doctor and have never played one on tv. You are not nuts. I have a friend that could be your twin, very bright, every thing he starts he goes at it full bore until he wins or succeeds then gets tired of it and goes on to the next challenge. He works with the same company I do and the management constantly overlooks him, when I have no doubt he could take on any project and complete it better than anyone else, myself included. They can’t get past the way he comes across, he has a tendency to tell it like he see’s it. And he scares them because he is right 99.9% of the time. That is some of that same keep’em down mentality that you described and I hate it. If someone wants to work and better themselves I will bust my rear end to help if I can, not see them as a threat or a burden. I have found that this attitude will bring payback for a lifetime. Most folks will remember someone that helped when others ignored or actively held them back.

  4. Virgil Says:

    Hey man…I do similar stuff like you do all the time…probably a subset due to slightly more limited finances but I don’t call it ADD…I call it living life.

    The way I see it, many, if not most people get upset when the see other people that have the ability and the desire and the resources to multi-task and change direction at the drop of a hat without actually failing at a given endeavor…just moving on to something else that interests them more.

    One of my favorite sayings, of unknown attribution, best covers our plight I think:

    Success is a JOURNEY…not a destination…

  5. Steve H. Says:

    You’re in denial, bub.
    Hey, I think I want to get into rock climbing!

  6. Rachel Says:

    If you had a “like” button like Facebook, I’d click “like” right here.

  7. Charles Cardwell Says:

    Steve, Perhaps I was a little over the top. I never meant to imply that you were crazy. Most people who see psychiatrists are not. They just need someone to help them through various crises in there lives. I believe that I have noticed you getting more and more compulsive about things and I think you could benefit from some professional help. I was unaware of your prior medical history which does shed a bit more light on things. I do not believe you are crazy! I have said my piece and I wish you all the best.

    PS I know you have moved on, but I do miss Limfoma Mbwebwe and the bird videos.

  8. Steve H. Says:

    Don’t worry. The voices in my hall closet said you meant well.

  9. krm Says:

    I agree with you on lawyers and studying law. It was WAY easier than engineering school. Exponentially so.
    I ask one question (OK, two questions).
    Are these “hobbies” putting you into debt? I haven’t gotten that idea. And the pizza business thing seems to be getting a reasonable degree of due diligence – you aren’t just imprudently jumping into one.
    Are these “hobbies” interfering with or harming your interactions and relationships with other people? I sortof get the pposite impression – these hobbies are becoming a gateway to building relationships (and you didn’t strike me as being excessively relationship endowed previously, so this looks like improvement to me).
    All right, a third question – are you really leaving a string of started but unfinished projects? I’m not getting that sense – you’re diverse on the hobbies, and seem to shift your attention around from one to another a bit. But you don’t seem to be the classic “start lot’s and never finish anything” sort.
    I’ve been very regularly reading for several years, and see the last few as a time of great growth and very positive.

  10. Steve H. Says:

    1. I am not crazy enough to wreck my finances in order to buy tools and toys.
    2. I am meeting more people because of my interests, and some of these people are real as contrasted with virtual.
    3. I bought a tin whistle on a whim and failed to learn to play it, and I’m way behind on woodworking because I’m waiting for Home Depot to restock a dust collector I like. Other than that, I fool with all this stuff on occasion, and the tools can be lifesavers. When you need a milling machine, you NEED it.

  11. Milo Says:

    I have been a machinist and a gunsmith most of my adult life.
    I have also spent many years helping farm a bit of land and driving tractor trailers.
    I LOVE machining and I LOVE gunsmithing, they aren’t jobs to me.

    Farming and truck driving are simply means to better my end.
    In the meantime I have come to learn I am not musically inclined and I hate to cook, I would never have known this if I had not taken the time to try these things out for myself.

    Never stop trying new things, life is an adventure that God gave you, enjoy it! πŸ™‚

  12. krm Says:

    Well, in that case – I stick with my original assessment.
    You seem to be far healthier and happier and more spiritually content than you were a few years ago.
    That is the opposite of going crazy (or even in need of any counseling) – it is nicely improving. I’d recommend sticking with it.

  13. Alan Says:

    “Crazy people see flaming bats flying at their heads, and they do other things, like wetting their pants and claiming to be Jesus.”
    Do tell, what type of undergarment protection do you prefer? πŸ™‚

  14. Steve H. Says:

    I will refrain from making the obvious Mormon joke.

  15. Ruth H Says:

    I think one reason I like you is you are so like my sons. However, you may have a split personality cause they are NOT alike. Seriously, I think of them as extremely intelligent and talented and you really do remind me of them. Even in the way you write. And they are neither one your typical Joe Blow and never have been. If you knew my sons you would know how very flattering that is.

  16. Andrea Harris Says:

    Gosh. To think that just a generation ago (well, maybe a couple of generations ago) it was considered normal for a man to have hobbies, and to go to church. In fact, if a man didn’t seem to have any pastimes, not to mention didn’t go to church, he was considered the weirdo, not the other way around. Now everything is turned inside out. If you show any enthusiasm for anything, you’re an obsessive or something, and should see a psychiatrist. If you have a religion and actually talk about it instead of hiding it like some shameful secret, you’re delusional and should see a psychiatrist. If you object to being called crazy for doing what you want with your time and money they tell you that’s proof you’re nuts and should see a psychiatrist. In a way I understand what’s happening here. It’s a grim economy and all babies have to eat, and psychiatrists depend upon there being a steady supply of people who have been told they are nuts and should see a psychiatrist. It’s just business.

  17. Jim Says:

    What’chu got against flaming bats, anyway?

    Jim (and the Other Jim and his twin brother Jim)
    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  18. Ritchie Says:

    When someone suggests that I may not be in proper proximity to the middle of the bell curve, I may reply “I do hope that’s not a problem”, or “And it’s gotten me where I am today!” I rejoice at you good fortune if you have the budget to be eccentric. Remember that the Cabal of Shrinks gets together every year to vote on what’s crazy. Then remember why a lot of them got started in that field. (To check themselves!)

  19. Steve B Says:

    I, for one, would like to publicly apologize for my earlier comment. I think God is equipping you to do great things, and my unsolicited “advice” was both un-called for an inappropriate.

    The world needs more good pizza. I wish you all possible success.

  20. aimee Says:

    Steve – I read you ages ago at hogonice, and was so excited to find you again today (from Chap’s guest post on Baldilocks, referencing Val’s getting you to BBQ the mojo’d pig!). It was fun to read this post and to see that you haven’t changed – except that now it sounds like you’re even more grounded in your faith, which is awesome. I always loved your enthusiasms, and will have a grand old time checking back in frequently.

    Welcome back (even tho you didn’t know you were gone, didja?). πŸ™‚